There is no secret, if you have follow recruiting in South Florida for any length of time, that elite prospects slip through the cracks.
From Deerfield Beach to Homestead and in every city in between, there are so many tremendous football players that even colleges tend to overlook and undervalue talent that continues to make a difference on the field.
While many believe that with all the attention that is being paid to these athletes year round at events such as combines, 7-on-7 games, spring football and camps, it is nearly impossible to miss out on football prospects, but for one reason or another, it happens.
“If a prospect is missed these days, it’s usually because a college believes the athlete in question is too small or not fast enough,” said longtime recruiting analyst Dana Wiley.
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“Grades are also another reason that many are under-recruited.”
While evaluating is not an exact science, and there is just so much you can get from watching a football player in shorts and a T-shirt, some athletes that are missed out on by the bigger schools sometimes boggles your mind. Two major examples of prospects being undervalued are Monarch defensive back Ronnie Hoggins and Braddock receiver Chris Linares.
Hoggins is listed at 5-10, 165 pounds. Many will tell you the reason why larger schools are luke warm on his recruiting is that he is more like 5-8 or 5-9, and colleges tend to recruit on measurables and not on what the athlete brings to the table. That, many insist, is where recruiting tends to go south.
If you have watched Hoggins play, there is no question that he is as good as any prospect that is being recruited in the Class of 2015.
While Louisville, TCU and Wisconsin were on him early, only Akron has been there every step of the way in this recruiting process, and that not only has frustrated Hoggins, but also head coach Calvin Davis, who has said over the past two years that he feels that his cornerback is the best in the state.
What Hoggins represents is a physical athlete who is quick, has tremendous skill and knows exactly what a receiver is thinking.
If you do happen to catch a ball on him, he reminds you that it comes with a price. He is strong and athletic, but plays with a chip on his shoulder.
Already this year, Hoggins has put up gaudy numbers with 12 interceptions that is the best in Florida — and among the tops in the country.
He has returned three for touchdowns, and while some schools have started to follow the leader and reacted to his senior production on the field, Hoggins has never said a word. He knows how much work he has put in — and understands that his production on the field and in games has been proof of what he can do.
“There are some things that I cannot control,” Hoggins has maintained. “I can only do what I can do and prove myself on the field and help my team realize the goal of making it to the 8A state championship game.”
College coaches have long missed out on players in an area that produces nearly 150 FBS prospects annually.
But when prospects put up numbers, produce against the “elite” athletes and continue to make a difference on the field, there is a problem, especially when local colleges scream for top talent to stay home.
“You look at a player like Hoggins, who definitely should be recruited by everyone in this state, and it really makes you think about what these schools are looking at,” Wiley pointed out. “I have watched him for the past two years — at every event and in several games — and you wonder how these programs cannot look past his height. He makes plays and is a difference maker at any level.”
As schools such as Arkansas and others have started to move in and watch him more closely, Hoggins continues to stay humble and put the focus on his senior season, which has been impressive for the Knights so far.
Like Hoggins, Linares (6-1, 175) has done everything possible to catch the attention of college coaches.
His 4.3 (40) speed, ability to get open and catch the ball against any defender and create exposure opportunities by attending camps, combines, showcases and getting it done on the football field have really been frustrating to those who follow him.
Veteran head coach Frank Rojas has been talking about what he represents as a football player and as a teammate for the past year. He knows that his ability to play this game and be the ultimate teammate is all part of the recruiting process that many school are overlooking.
“You rarely get an all-around athlete like Chris,” Rojas said.
“He is fast, has great hands, runs tremendous patterns and has the size you are looking for in a quality receiver. I really believe colleges are missing out on a young man who is a game-changer.”
Over the past year, Linares has worked harder than any prospect — and while college offers have not been pouring in, he has looked past it and has devoted this season to making his team better and leading by example.
His teammates respect the work he has put in and follow his lead every step of the way.
“The frustrating thing about the entire recruiting process is that if you are not labeled at 4-5 star recruit, colleges don’t look at you,” Linares explained. “That is why the star rating system makes no sense. I have always been taught that productivity is the thing that wins out.”
OTHERS BEING OVERLOOKED
You could make a huge list of football talent that has not been recognized by the fan websites and recruiting services, but are certainly FBS prospects.
Among those seniors that are not getting the attention they deserve include Keys Gate Charter receiver Ray Gage, Coral Shores standouts George and Henry Jacobsen, South Dade quarterback P.J. Coats, Miami Central running back Cedric Miller, Ronald Reagan linebacker Shawn Curtis, Monarch receiver Ellex “Pooh” Davis, Miami Jackson defensive back Tovias Parker, North Miami receiver Victor Sam, Miami Springs receiver Johnny Rembert, Killian punter/receiver Anthony Olivencia, Hallandale receiver Richie Cooper, Hollywood Hills athlete Darius Greene, Coral Springs quarterback Jake Bofshever, Westminster Academy quarterback Joe Vairo, Douglas quarterback Brett Israel.